Facing a minimum of 30 years, Brian Emmanuel Borden was sentenced Friday to 34 years’ imprisonment for the Sept. 13, 2011, murder of Robert Bush in West Bay.
In handing down the sentence, Justice Alexander Henderson noted the background of rivalry between two gangs – the Birch Tree Hill Gang, of which Mr. Borden was the leader; and the Logwoods Gang, with which Mr. Bush was associated.
The judge emphasized that 34 years is how much time Mr. Borden, now 32, must serve before he may apply for release, but there was nothing in the law to say whether he should be released at that time, or later, or at all. The 723 days Mr. Borden spent on remand before his trial are to be deducted from the 34 years.
The Conditional Release Law says that the life sentence for murder shall be 30 years unless there are exceptional circumstances that are aggravating or extenuating to a degree that would raise or lower the 30 years.
Justice Henderson devoted 13 paragraphs of his 21-paragraph judgment to the gang aspect of the murder, saying it was an aggravating circumstance that was exceptional. That plus the considerable degree of premeditation he had found, justified a “substantial uplift” from 30 years, the judge said.
Robert Macford Bush was 28 when he was murdered by two gunshot wounds to his head – one from a shotgun and one from a handgun, Justice Henderson summarized.
“Although it has always been clear that two people perpetrated the killing, no one else has been charged as yet,” he noted.
The catalyst for the killing was a young woman who had lived in the Logwoods area and had socialized with the gang members there. She developed a relationship with Mr. Bush.
After she moved to the Birch Tree Hill area, she began to socialize with those gang members, but continued her relationship with Mr. Bush, who would pick her up in her neighborhood.
“He would drive into the heart of the Birch Tree Hill area with his car stereo playing loud enough to announce his presence to members of the rival gang. He did this repeatedly, usually around the same time in the evening. Clearly, Mr. Bush was unafraid of the Birch Tree Hill gang and wanted all to know that” the judge said.
On the night before his murder, Mr. Bush drove into a yard with the young woman and, while she got a cigarette, he got out of the car and talked with a member of the rival gang. He started to leave, but then came back and asked the woman to get him some alcohol. These actions were deemed to be very disrespectful and the gang member with whom Mr. Bush had spoken was considered to have lost respect.
For some time, Mr. Borden had been threatening to kill Mr. Bush, asking another woman to help him “set up” Mr. Bush and also deliver the message to Mr. Bush that Mr. Borden would kill him.
There was evidence that Mr. Borden had lurked outside this woman’s apartment hoping to encounter Mr. Bush. The judge said he characterized this behavior as “stalking.”
On the night of his murder, Mr. Bush drove into the Birch Tree Hill area to pick up the woman with whom he had a relationship. She was in his car when Mr. Borden approached and discharged a shotgun blast into Mr. Bush’s head at close range. The woman was struck by some of the pellets. A second assailant fired a shot at Mr. Bush from a handgun.
“Mr. Bush’s regular and very public incursions into the Birch Tree Hill Gang’s territory were seen by all concerned as challenging and very disrespectful,” Justice Henderson said. “According to gang protocol on questions of honor,” they could not be ignored, he added.
“This was a murder committed by Mr. Borden to enhance his standing within the Birch Tree Hill Gang. He was regarded as its leader. He no doubt felt that to maintain his position and the esteem of his fellow gang members, he had to act. And so he executed the victim in order that others might see him as someone to be feared and obeyed,” the judge said.
The gangland context of the murder was sufficiently unusual to make it exceptional and, combined with the degree of premeditation, justified a substantial uplift, Justice Henderson concluded.